Galaktoboureko is a total food of the gods! This delicious custard filled filo pastry has the best of both worlds-crisp, golden syrup soaked pastry and a creamy, thick layer of custard. Did you know that this is a straightforward dessert to make and ideal for feeding a crowd? I've tested this out with my Greek friends and neighbours to get the recipes juuuust right. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader and if you've got a Thermomix, you HAVE to try this!
Galaktoboureko (pronounced ga-lahk-toe-boo-reh-koh) is a Greek, Albanian, Laz and Syrian dessert made with baked semolina custard and buttered filo pastry and finished with a spiced syrup. "Galakto" means Milk in Greek and "börek" is the Turkish word for a filled pastry. It is one of the most delicious desserts you can ever try!
One thing that really surprised me about Galaktoboureko is actually how easy it is, especially if you have a Thermomix as it does all the work with the custard. Also you can make Galaktoboureko in parts - make the syrup ahead of time a day or two before and then it's just buttering filo and making custard in the Thermomix or on the stovetop.
13 Tips for Making THE BEST Galaktoboureko!
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1 - Brown the butter to make it nutty smelling-this elevates the end result completely. All this means is melting the butter in a saucepan for a minute or two extra until it starts smelling nutty!
2 - I always use salted butter for desserts because desserts always need a bit of salt to balance their sweetness. And since Galaktoboureko is quite a sweet dessert with a lot of syrup you definitely want a sweet/salty balance.
3 - I always make the syrup the day before so that it can cool completely.
4 - A lot of recipes say that you should boil the syrup for 5 minutes but I boil mine for 15-20 minutes on low heat (not on high heat or you'll end up with toffee). It brings out the flavours of the aromates like the cinnamon, cloves and lemon.
5 - If you want a more piquant syrup add more lemon slices.
6 - I recommend using fine semolina flour instead of coarse for a silkier mouthfeel. You can also use semolina flour to make hand rolled pasta like pici.
7 - Be generous with the vanilla bean paste in the custard. It will pay off with the end result.
8 - I always use refrigerated (rather than frozen) filo pastry. Take it out of the fridge 1 hour before you want to use it and allow it to come to temperature in its packaging.
9 - Cover filo pastry with a damp tea towel as it dries out very quickly. Make sure to reserve 12 sheets for the top (I usually count 13 sheets because the last sheet is usually a bit of a mess and breaks apart).
10 - Always pour cold syrup onto the hot, just out of the oven Galaktoboureko. The cold and hot contrast will mean that the pastry won't go soggy and it will stay crispy and make a little crackling noise. Add the syrup one ladleful at a time allowing it to absorb. Don't feel like you need to use it all. I sometimes have a ladleful of syrup leftover.
11 - Cool Galaktoboureko on a cooling rack at room temperature, do not refrigerate to cool it down. This way the custard will set so that it is sliceable but the pastry is still crisp.
12 - Galaktoboureko is best eaten on the day that it is made. Refrigerating it will cause the top pastry to go soft. It will still be tasty but it will lose that lovely crispness and textural contrast. I always bake my Galaktoboureko around 12noon and it will be ready to eat around 3pm that day.
13 - Oh and don't throw away the remnants or toasted butter solids of the browned butter once you sieve the butter. It's so delicious and full of flavour - I cook rice in the same saucepan and add water and rice on top of it!
This recipe is a combination of recipes including one from Valentina's mother as well as my recipe for baklava syrup. The original recipe had a lot of syrup, probably double what was needed and what I really wanted to make was a thick, crisp layer of filo pastry on top and a thick layer of semolina custard in the centre. That's the best of both worlds. Although this Galaktoboureko is enormous and serves 12 I found myself making a few of them trying to get the recipe juuust right. Half would go to our Greek neighbours Nick and Vicki and the other half would go to Valentina for their feedback and they gave me very detailed feedback, a lot of which I agreed with. Then I would go back to the drawing board so to speak and make another one.
On the day I made this last one it was a sunny day in the kitchen and I was in a good mood and it felt like it would be a fun day in the kitchen. But of course life has a way to tell you that you have to be on your guard at all times. I cracked an egg into the Thermomix bowl and it smashed everywhere. You know how you get a rogue egg where the shell is like paper and you crack it hard and it sort of explodes? Well that happened all over my kitchen and the egg dripped down the sides of the kitchen island and pooled on the floor, the smashed yolk and white spreading across the floor.
Milo and I looked at each other. He cocked his head blinking his hazel eyes as if to say "Mummy? Can I have egg?". I nodded and sent in the puppy clean up crew. Milo slurped up the egg enthusiastically. I grabbed a new egg from the fridge and then continued making the custard in the Thermomix adding the lid on and leaving it to cook.
But when I opened the lid I was horrified as I saw some tiny bits of eggshell speckled through the custard. It seemed that it hadn't been a clean break and there was tiny shards of egg shell all through my custard. I was loathe to throw it away because I didn't have enough milk to make more so I did the only thing I could think to do and I sieved every last bit of that custard. It was messy work but I kept going until it was smooth and silky with no crunchy egg shell pieces. The last thing I wanted to do was to give my lovely testers a crunchy custard! And after they tried it, Vicki dropped off a beautiful bunch of flowers which I'm almost positive would not have happened if the custard was crunchy haha.
So tell me Dear Reader, are there ever days in the kitchen when something goes badly wrong? Have you ever tried Galaktoboureko?
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes cooling time conventional method
Cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 12 generous pieces
1 1/2 cups/375mls/13flozs water
1 1/4 cups/275g/9.7ozs caster or superfine sugar
1/4 cup/90g/3ozs honey
1 cinnamon stick
4 slices lemon (seeds removed)
For the pastry and filling
375g/13ozs filo pastry
8 cups/2 litres/2quarts whole milk
2 cups/440g/1lb caster or superfine sugar
320g/11.3ozs fine semolina flour
100g/3.5ozs butter, cubed
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Note: you can also do a half batch of this in a 20x20 or 8x8inch square tin.
Step 1 - Have a 24x34x5cms or 9x13x2inch baking dish ready. Take the filo out of the fridge and place it on the benchtop in its packaging so that it comes to room temperature (around an hour or so before you start using it will do). Make the syrup as you want it completely cold and chilled (you can make this 3-4 days ahead of time). Combine all syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan on low heat stirring until sugar dissolves completely. Then turn up heat to low medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes until syrup thickens and turns a slight golden shade. Cool and then refrigerate for best results.
Step 2a - Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it is starting to boil add the semolina flour slowly in a thin stream while whisking. Turn down to medium heat and keep whisking until it becomes creamy and smooth. Add in butter and vanilla and stir in to distribute the vanilla and melt the butter. Cool down for 30 minutes and then whisk in the eggs.
Step 2b Thermomix - Thermomix directions for custard: you will have to do this in two batches as the Thermomix will not be able to fit the whole quantity in. So divide the milk, sugar, semolina, eggs, butter and vanilla in two. Place the half quantity of milk, sugar, semolina and eggs in the TM bowl and set to 7 minutes/90C/speed#4. Add butter and vanilla and set to 30 seconds, speed #4. Cover with cling film directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Repeat for the other half of ingredients.
Step 3 - Heat the butter in a saucepan and allow to become foamy and smell nutty. Using a strainer, strain out the solids so that you end up with a clear, golden coloured browned butter. Remove the filo from the packaging and place a damp teatowel on top to prevent it from drying out.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 160C/320F fan forced. Line the base of the tray with one sheet of filo pastry and brush gently with the butter. Add another layer going up the sides and brushing each with butter and then the next going up the other side. You will add 8 layers of filo each alternatively covering the base and each of the four sides leaving pastry for overlapping.
Step 5 - Pour in the custard filling and use an angled spatula to spread it out smooth. Then start folding in the extra layers of pastry overlap buttering each layer and fold it on top of the custard. Then add 12 layers of filo pastry on top brushing each layer generously with butter. Trim the edges of the pastry off so that you get a neat edge.
Step 6 - Then using a serrated knife and a ruler, score the pastry on top to cut into 12 even sized squares. You just need to cut through the top layers of pastry, not the custard. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until golden on top. As soon as it comes out of the oven, ladle the syrup over the top letting it soak in between ladles. It will make a light crackling sound as the chilled syrup hits the hot pastry. Cool for a couple of hours and serve. This is best eaten on the day it is made as the pastry on top will go soft once refrigerated.